Solo: A Star Wars Story is perhaps an example of the laziness of Hollywood, but it is also demonstrably a solid movie. It’s this juxtaposition that makes Solo such an interesting movie. I bet you never thought you’d see someone call the box office flop “interesting”, but here it is. So, a year on from the biggest misfire in the Star Wars universe, what’s the deal with Solo; good movie or not?
Perhaps the most compelling thing about Solo is that it’s both, a solid well-crafted action/heist film and a pointless and unnecessary mistake. It’s all about perceptions. If you watch Solo as a standalone movie outside the Star Wars universe, it’s a fun ride. However, it absolutely is a Star Wars movie, and that’s the problem.
Han Solo was arguably the standout character in the original trilogy (step aside Darth Vader), providing a roguish charm to the movies. One could imagine him lapping up the best New York online casinos if he were to ever visit Earth. Dashing and dangerous, the point of Han for many Star Wars fans was that he was mysterious.
The fun in the character was not knowing his exact origins, not knowing what the Kessel Run was, and not properly understanding his intentions. When we used to argue about whether it was Han or Greedo who shot first, the excitement was in the debate itself, not a potential answer.
Of course, Hollywood often misses what it means to be a fan of something. Instead, movie executives with dollar signs in their eyes believed they could ride fans for another billion bucks at the box office. They thought answering those mysterious questions about Han Solo would guarantee success.
As a result, we got fan “service the movie”. Solo: A Star Wars Story is practically tripping over itself to tell us everything about Han. As a Star Wars movie, it is almost hilarious that every significant thing we learned about Han Solo in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi can be summed up within a week of the man’s life.
And that’s what Solo tries to sell us. Do you want to know how Han met Chewie? Here it is. How about that famed Kessel Run? It’s in Solo. What was the deal with Han getting the Millennium Falcon? It’s answered in this movie. When did Han meet Lando? It’s here too. Oh yes, the movie also throws in Greedo for good measure. Remember, this all happens during a span of days!
It’s a massive problem because you can never detach yourself from the movie’s eagerness to appease fans. In terms of film craft, there’s nothing wrong with Solo: A Star Wars Story (murky cinematography aside). Ron Howard is a fine director even if he was in journeyman mode here, putting out fires.
Solo can be exciting, it has excellent action set pieces and even manages to engage on an emotional level. As a movie, it’s fine and certainly better than many other blockbusters that performed better. However, you can never get away from the fact this is Star Wars and its desperately thinning out a character that should never have been touched.
They should have left Han Solo alone.